Chicago officials push for new gun safety legislation

February 11, 2013 (CHICAGO)

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel thinks the new laws would help discourage the use of guns.

Emanuel, Chicago Police Department Chief Garry McCarthy and Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez called for statewide gun safety legislation to help curb illegal gun possession and gun violence, which they say are at unacceptable levels.

"From my perspective as a career prosecutor …gun laws are not working," Alvarez said.

The legislative proposals, drafted by the mayor's office call for increasing the penalty for felons caught with guns from two years to three years, increasing the minimum sentence for people convicted of gun possession from one year to three years and requiring offenders convicted of gun crimes to serve at least 85-percent of that sentence. Currently the average gun offender convicted of gun possession serves no more than 50-percent of that sentence.

McCarthy cited New York City as a successful example of implementing mandatory gun sentencing. It was such a deterrent for crime that the murder rate fell by double digits, according to McCarthy.

Prison reform advocates question mandatory sentencing laws.

Keeping people behind bars longer would be a burden to taxpayers and an overcrowded prison system, they said.

It also takes away a judge's ability to decide an appropriate sentence, according to advocates.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit Chicago Friday to discuss the gun violence issue.

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